The Amal Movement today issued a statement announcing a prisoner exchange operation will be carried out on June 17 via the Kfar Falous Border crossing. The statement added 50 prisoners detained in the Khiam prison and 40 Lebanese bodies are to be handed to the Lebanese government in exchange of the remains of an Israeli soldier who died in the failed Ansariyeh operation.
The Amal Movement added it was not concerned with the negotiations that were and are still taking place. Meanwhile, a high-ranking official source in the Lebanese government said negotiations between the Lebanese government and Israel are being conducted via the International Red Cross. The source added negotiations are continuing and no date has been set yet for the swap operation. For his part, Hizbullah's official in South Lebanon, Sheikh Nabil Qawooq today said those prisoners expected to be freed are resistance men who belonged to different Lebanese parties but mostly include Hizbullah members.
He added that the priorities followed in the negotiations emphasized the release of the sick prisoners and those who have served a longer period in prison. Qawooq also clarified that Sheikh Abdel Kareem Obeid, Mustafa Dirani, and Suha Bshara are not included in the swap. He said Israel refuses to include their names in this exchange file for reasons linked to the case of Israeli pilot, Don Arad. He also stressed the role of the ICRC, Lebanon?s Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and some friendly countries in quickening the pace of negotiations.
In another development, the French ambassador to Lebanon Daniel Jouanneau yesterday denied his country played any role in the operation quoting French President Jacques Chirac as saying during his visit to Lebanon that the responsibility lies in the hands of the International Red Cross Committee in charge.
The five-nation cease-fire monitoring group is still in session at the UNIFIL's headquarters in Naqoura. The panel comprised of delegates from Lebanon, Syria, France, Israel and the US started its meeting at 11:00 this morning to look into two complaints, one filed by Lebanon and another lodged by Israel. The Lebanese complaint centers on Israeli shelling of civilian areas in the village of Kfar Tibnin, while Israel claims resistance members initiated attacks from civilian areas in the South, namely Nabatieh al-Faouqa. The truce bans both sides to launch attack to or from areas inhabited by civilians. Meanwhile, the Islamic Resistance in the South today said it attacked the Israeli outpost in Sojod last night.
Another group of the resistance also attacked the same post today scoring direct hits in both attacks, a statement said.
The Bulgarian foreign minister who arrived last night in Beirut, today held talks at the presidential palace in Baabda with President Elias Al-Hrawi. She told reporters at the palace that she briefed the president on the current economic and political situation in her country. She also expressed her country's wish to boost bilateral cooperation with Lebanon. The Bulgarian official also met her Lebanese counterpart, Faris Boueiz at Boustrous Palace. Following a joint press conference she held with Boueiz, the Bulgarian foreign minister said her country supports the implementation of UN Resolution 425 and all other Security Council international resolutions which aim at resolving conflicts in the Middle East. She added her country follows a balanced strategy in this regard. The two ministers signed two agreements aimed at boosting cooperation and consultations between the two foreign ministries and increasing bilateral cultural cooperation with Lebanon. The Bulgarian official will hold meetings with House Speaker Nabih Berri and Minister of Trade and Economy Yassin Jaber.
The Bulgarian foreign minister is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri later this evening.
Australian House Speaker Ian Sinclair today held talks in Beirut with Immigrants minister Talal Arslan. Discussions centered on bilateral ties between the two countries and the situation of the Lebanese immigrants in Australia. Arslan is expected to visit Australia this summer. Sinclair later told reporters he was proud of the Lebanese immigrants in Australia and praised their education and culture. He later met the Minister of Economy and Trade Yassin Jaber. The Australian official will hold talks during his visit with Lebanese President Elias Al-Hrawi, his counterpart Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri. His four-day official visit to Lebanon also includes an expected visit to Qana to lay a wreath on the tomb of the victims of the massacre. Sinclair and the accompanying delegation, comprising six Australian deputies, arrived yesterday from Damascus where they held talks with Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad and a number of high-ranking officials there.
President Elias AL-Hrawi today headed a meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda to discuss the upcoming municipal and mayoral elections expected in Zahle next Sunday. The meeting was attended by minister Nicola Fattoush and Shawki Fakhoury and deputy Khalil Al-Hrawi. The President's two sons Roy and Roland and a number of officials and dignitaries in Zahle were also present. They all briefed the president on their preparations for the Sunday's local polls in Zahle.
In Zahle, deputy Elie Skaf today revealed some pressures are being exerted on his supporters in the Zahle local polls. He also accused President Elias Al-Hrawi of direct intervention in the polls. Skaf revealed a sum of 100,000 US dollars was offered to one of the candidates running under the list he supported, the list of the Decision of Zahle, pressuring him to withdraw. Skaf added along with his supporters, he will stand in the face of all those pressures exerted by the president and his bloc. The List of Zahle Tomorrow, meanwhile, continues preparations for Sunday's ballots in the face of the Decision List. In the Western Bekaa, the battle is hottest in Jib Jennine between an electoral list supported by deputy House Speaker Elie Al-Firzli and another backed by deputy Samy Al-Khatib.
In Baalback-Hermel, hot electoral battles are expected to take place between the strong parties in the area: Hizbullah, Amal, and the tribes. Minister Mahmoud Abu-Hamdan also commented on the electoral battle in Baalback after talks with House Speaker Nabih Berri in parliament today.
Abu-Hamdan said he supported consensus in the city adding the families there do not accept any party member to head the city's municipal council.
He added the Amal Movement will not field members as candidates in compliance with the instructions of House Speaker Berri. Negotiations to form a single list in Baalback have been so far deadlocked.
A press conference was held in Beirut announcing the program of the annual Beiteddine festival which will be opened on July 8 this year. The head of the organizing committee of the festival, Nora Jumblatt, said Beiteddine will again witness this year a number of performances by internationally celebrated names in jazz, opera, ballet, salsa, rumba, cha-cha-cha and even the Sufi music of Iran. This will be the eighth annual festival held in Beiteddine. The program this year is remarkably rich with professionals from all over the world presenting a great variety of arts. Perhaps one of the most special participants in this year's festival is the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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